F1 Grand Prix of Malaysia - Previews

2014 Malaysian Grand Prix preview

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After a two week break, Formula 1 returns this weekend with the Malaysian Grand Prix as the first race in a double-header with the Bahrain Grand Prix. Following his dominant victory in Australia, Nico Rosberg is looking to equal his father’s tally of five grand prix victories this weekend, and it is hard to write off the German driver given the pace of the Mercedes W05 car.

However, Rosberg will have to be wary of the challenge posed by teammate Lewis Hamilton, who was forced to retire after just three laps in Australia due to an engine problem. The Briton will be looking to make up for lost time this weekend, as will defending world champion Sebastian Vettel following his own retirement down under.

You also have to consider the likes of Daniel Ricciardo, Valtteri Bottas, Felipe Massa and Jenson Button as possible race winners, whilst rookie Kevin Magnussen will be hoping to build upon his second place finish in Australia.

Finally, there’s that ever-present factor in Malaysia: the weather. This race has always been held in monsoon season, meaning that rain can strike at any time.

2014 Malaysian Grand Prix – Talking Points

Just how quick is Mercedes?

How much has really changed in Formula 1 over the winter? Once again in Australia, a German driver won the race with relative ease (albeit in a different car… and it was a different German…). Nico Rosberg seem rather relaxed when winning the race down under, like it was a formality. Will he and teammate Lewis Hamilton enter battle with each other this weekend for the race win?

Rookies hope to continue good form

Having made their debuts in Australia, Kevin Magnussen and Daniil Kvyat will be hoping for more of the same after both scoring points at Albert Park. In second place, Magnussen claimed the best result for a driver on debut since 1996, whilst Kvyat picked up some good points in ninth place, and even hassled Kimi Raikkonen for position at one point. Marcus Ericsson’s debut ended prematurely due to an oil pressure problem, but he too will be encouraged by his maiden Formula 1 outing.

Can Red Bull bounce back from fuelgate?

Everything has a -gate nowadays, and this is no exception. Following Daniel Ricciardo’s disqualification from the Australian Grand Prix (which has been appealed), Red Bull needs a good weekend in Malaysia to avoid losing any more ground as the team bids for a fifth straight world title. The car is quick, certainly, but it needs to see the finish line if it is to give the team any points.

Bottas and Massa are the dark horses

With 19 overtakes, Valtteri Bottas provided a good chunk of the action in Australia, and it was a joy to watch him race. Had he not made contact with the wall when chasing Kimi Raikkonen, he may well have finished on the podium. Alongside teammate Felipe Massa (who retired at turn one), Bottas is a dark horse to give Williams a podium finish that would undoubtedly underline its pace for the coming year.

Honoring MH370

The Malaysian Grand Prix will be a rather subdued event this weekend following the recent disappearance of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. A number of teams will run with tributes on their cars, and a minute’s silence is expected to be held ahead of the race on Sunday.

Track: Sepang International Circuit, Sepang (5.3km)
Laps: 56
Corners: 15
Lap RecordJuan Pablo Montoya 1:34.223 (2004)
Tire Compounds: Medium (Option); Hard (Prime)
2013 Winner: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull)
2012 Pole Position: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull)
2012 Fastest Lap: Sergio Perez (McLaren) – 1:39.199
DRS Zones: Main straight (T15 to T1); T14 to T15

For the complete TV times and schedule, click here.

DiZinno: Engine drama dominates 2015 silly season thus far

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So it’s mid-October, and in both Formula 1 and IndyCar, the story of silly season 2015 is not about the drivers behind the wheel, but more about the lumps giving the drivers the power with which to do so.

The war in IndyCar has gone on more behind-the-scenes between Honda and Chevrolet as it relates to performance clauses and what can or can’t be updated for 2016.

However F1’s engine battle has been a very public spat, and been the dominant silly season storyline this fall.

F1’s driver silly season never really got going for next season. As my MotorSportsTalk colleague Luke Smith has chronicled, the one potential domino that could have made things interesting – Kimi Raikkonen’s status at Ferrari – will go unchanged into 2016.

As such, it leaves with a grid where the lineups at Mercedes, Ferrari, Williams, Force India, Sauber and most recently McLaren are confirmed to stay the same for 2016.

The only driver switch at present is Romain Grosjean leaving the unsettled, fluid situation at Lotus to lead Haas F1 Team’s charge in its maiden season.

This brings us then, simply, to the Red Bull teams.

Red Bull may give you wings, and wings right now are all that’s confirmed to power the teams into 2016.

A season-long row, spat, disagreement or whatever word you want to call it has occurred between Red Bull and Renault to the point where Red Bull has threatened to pull out of Formula 1 – which would leave its quartet of talented youngsters, Daniel Ricciardo, Daniil Kvyat, Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz Jr. – all sidelined. Let alone all its talented mechanics and crew.

Mercedes has already moved its fourth engine supply from Lotus to Manor, and Ferrari has proposed offering a 2015 power unit, neither of which were really feasible solutions for Red Bull and by default, Toro Rosso as well.

It’s then left the two parties in a proverbial stalemate, where Red Bull needs Renault more than Renault needs Red Bull.

And in social terms, it’s a case of Red Bull needing to go back to the girl they want to dump, because it’s their only option. Perhaps it’s no coincidence the term “F1 booty call” was occasionally used on social media over the weekend to describe the situation.

The Red Bull quit threat, unfortunately, continues to persist. Adrian Newey, the sport’s most successful designer, has reiterated the concerns in an interview with Reuters over the weekend.

“Unfortunately, our relationship with Renault is pretty terminal — there’s been too much of a marriage breakdown, so we have no engine,” Newey told Reuters while in Abu Dhabi to judge the Nissan PlayStation GT Academy.

“Red Bull should not be put in a position where they’re only there to make up the numbers,” he added, noting the desired need for improvement from Renault.

One could argue, of course, that Newey’s departure has had a psychological effect on the team, perhaps as much if not a greater impact than Renault’s engine woes. And easy as it is to forget, Ricciardo still won three Grands Prix a year ago and was in mathematical championship contention until the final few races of the season.

Think in Renault’s case as well, that as a sole constructor and owner of Lotus as it is shaping up to be next year, it would behoove them to have a second set of data at its disposal, rather than going solo without another team. See Honda and McLaren for how that’s gone this year…

The fact that Red Bull has opted to go for the nuclear threat in print of quitting when all it’s really had is a bad year – something it’s experienced plenty both early in its own team lifespan, and in its prior guises as Jaguar and Stewart dating to the Stewart team’s inception in 1997 – really smacks of poor professionalism, unbecoming of the brand.

Red Bull didn’t get the top of the mountain in the business world, and in F1, without a desire to be the best.

But in the interest of becoming a true fabric of the F1 community through both thick and thin – as teams like Ferrari, Williams and McLaren have done for decades – it needs to take a step back, chalk 2015 up as a year to forget and figure out a way to bury the hatchet so it doesn’t leave all the affected individuals high and dry.

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Ryan Briscoe

Ryan Briscoe
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MotorSportsTalk continues its review of the Verizon IndyCar Series field, driver-by-driver, with a look at Ryan Briscoe. Despite not having a ride to start the year, Briscoe ended strongly courtesy of a series of strong runs at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.

Ryan Briscoe, No. 5 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda

  • 2014: 11th Place, Best Finish 4th, Best Start 4th, 1 Top-5, 11 Top-10, 5 Laps Led, 12.8 Avg. Start, 10.6 Avg. Finish
  • 2015: 18th Place (8 starts), Best Finish 5th, Best Start 2nd, 1 Top-5, 4 Top-10, 10 Laps Led, 17.8 Avg. Start, 12.0 Avg. Finish

For those who slag on Briscoe as being undeserving of top level equipment, his 2015 second half provided a friendly reminder of his overall ability level in what might be less than the best machinery.

Briscoe was thrust into the No. 5 car under trying circumstances to begin with, getting all of an hour’s worth practice replacing the injured James Hinchcliffe ahead of the Indianapolis 500. But subsequent drives on the ovals there, Texas, Fontana, Milwaukee and Iowa – even if the results were less than ideal – showcased a driver determined to show to the paddock he still had it, and then some. His defense against Juan Pablo Montoya in Sonoma was nothing short of brilliant, and courtesy of double points he actually finished ahead of full-season driver Stefano Coletti.

The Australian immediately gelled with the SPM team, engineer Allen McDonald and race strategist Robert Gue. He continues to prove he’s an asset, as he has enjoyed multiple opportunities to extend his career in various arenas of motorsport in both open-wheel and sports cars, the latter of which he won at both the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring with Corvette Racing this year.